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Terry Gross

Host

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, isn't afraid to ask tough questions. But Gross sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrendering them. What often puts those guests at ease is Gross' understanding of their work. "Anyone who agrees to be interviewed must decide where to draw the line between what is public and what is private," Gross says. "But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions. What puts someone on guard isn't necessarily the fear of being 'found out.' It sometimes is just the fear of being misunderstood."

Gross began her radio career in 1973 at public radio station WBFO in Buffalo, New York. There she hosted and produced several arts, women's and public affairs programs, including This Is Radio, a live, three-hour magazine program that aired daily. Two years later, she joined the staff of WHYY-FM in Philadelphia as producer and host of Fresh Air, then a local, daily interview and music program. In 1985, WHYY-FM launched a weekly half-hour edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which was distributed nationally by NPR. Since 1987, a daily, one-hour national edition of Fresh Air has been produced by WHYY-FM. The program is broadcast on 566 stations and became the first non-drive time show in public radio history to reach more than five million listeners each week in fall 2008, a presidential election season. In fall 2011, Fresh Air reached 4.4 million listeners a week.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 1994 for its "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insight." America Women in Radio and Television presented Gross with a Gracie Award in 1999 in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, she received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Edward R. Murrow Award for her "outstanding contributions to public radio" and for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." In 2007, Gross received the Literarian Award. In 2011, she received the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.

Gross is the author of All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists, published by Hyperion in 2004.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gross received a bachelor's degree in English and M.Ed. in communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Gross was recognized with the Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 and Doctor of Humane Letters in 2007, both from SUNY–Buffalo. She also received a Doctor of Letters from Haverford College in 1998 and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Drexel University in 1989.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. There's no cure for dementia, and there's unlikely to be one in the foreseeable future, which is why my guest, Dr. Tia Powell, is focusing on questions like, how can we devise a viable strategy to pay for long-term care? How do we preserve dignity? How do we balance freedom and safety? What is a good death for someone with dementia? And how do we help people who are losing their memory find some joy?

Cult filmmaker and self-described "filth elder" John Waters, 73, has plenty of ideas about what older people should and shouldn't do.

The worst thing, he says, is to get a convertible: "Because believe me, old age and windswept do not go hand in hand. It's really a bad look! You can't be trying too hard to rebel [when] you're older."

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today's guest, Stephen McCauley, is the author of the novel titled "My Ex-Life," which just came out in paperback. When it was first published in 2018, our book critic Maureen Corrigan described it as a smart comedy of manners about McCauley's signature subject - namely, the disconnect between erotic desire and intimacy and the screwball paths that people take on the way to finally arriving home.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Howard Stern described my interview with him as exhausting. We talked a long time because there was so much to talk about - too much to fit in one show. Yesterday we heard Part 1. Today we have Part 2 of my interview with Howard Stern. The occasion for the interview is the publication of his new book collecting some of his favorite interviews from his Sirius XM radio show. The book is called "Howard Stern Comes Again." Let's pick up where we left off yesterday.

So we were talking about...

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're going to listen back to the interview I was lucky enough to record with Doris Day, who stayed out of the public eye for decades after giving up her movie career. She died Monday at the age of 97. As film critic Carrie Rickey wrote in her obituary for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Doris Day was beloved for her popular songs, films and wholesomeness. It's hard to name another figure whose sunny persona was so at odds with her stormy life.

Looking back on his early career, Howard Stern remembers being "petrified" that he wasn't going to be able to make a living. "All the sexual antics, the religious antics, the race antics — everything that I talked about, every outrageous thing that I did — was to entertain my audience and grow my audience," he says. "Whether you liked it or not, or the person down the street liked it or not — I didn't care as long as I kept growing that audience."

Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes female characters who are flawed, reckless and unpredictable. "As an audience, all we ever want really is to be surprised by things," she says. The actor and writer just finished an off-Broadway run of her one-woman show Fleabag, just as the second season of the TV show is dropping on Amazon.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "VEEP")

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Selina Meyer) OK. Leon?

BRIAN HUSKEY: (As Leon West) Yeah.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Selina Meyer) I'm still - I'm not sure about this part where I say I want to be president for all Americans. I mean, do I? You know? All of them?

HUSKEY: (As Leon West) How about real Americans?

Nearly 100 years ago, Congress passed a restrictive law that cut the overall number of immigrants coming to the United States and put severe limits on those who were let in.

Journalist Daniel Okrent says that the eugenics movement — a junk science that stemmed from the belief that certain races and ethnicities were morally and genetically superior to others — informed the Immigration Act of 1924, which restricted entrance to the U.S.

Many women have a hard time admitting — even to themselves — that they're being abused by their husband or partner. Suzanne Dubus' first husband hit her, but still, she didn't initially identify herself as a victim of abuse.

"I attributed it to alcohol," Dubus says. "I knew that his father abused his mother. And I thought, 'Well, this is just poor learning, and I can help him with this.' "

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Jo Sullivan Loesser, who died April 28, starred in Frank Loesser's Broadway show The Most Happy Fella and then married him. After he died she helped preserve his legacy.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Historian and Harvard professor Anne Harrington believes that pharmaceutical companies have played an oversized role in determining how mental illness is treated in the United States — leading to a rise in the use of antidepressant drugs.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Mueller investigation gave us insights into how Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, hid their ill-gotten money with the help of shell companies and real estate, protecting it from the reach of the law, until the investigation. Crooks, oligarchs, kleptocrats and some of the superrich from around the world use this transnational shadow system of shell companies and real estate to stash their money.

When New York Times media columnist David Carr died suddenly of previously undiagnosed lung cancer in 2015, he left behind a legacy as a journalist, a mentor and a father.

In 2015, a woman named Dee Dee Blanchard was found stabbed to death in the Missouri home she shared with her teenage daughter, Gypsy Rose.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Shakespeare's King Lear is one of the most challenging and prestigious roles in theater — and one that's traditionally played by a man.

But now a new production of King Lear on Broadway stars Glenda Jackson in its title role. The British actor, who is 82, is fine with the gender bending casting.

"When we're born, we teach babies ... to be boys or girls," Jackson says. "As we get older, those absolute barriers that define gender begin to crack."

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. When Pulitzer Prize winners were announced earlier this week, Aretha Franklin was honored with a special citation for what the jury called her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades. Franklin died last August at the age of 76.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

"I knew that I wanted to act since I was old enough to reason," says Henry Winkler. "I never had a Plan B. I never deviated. I never thought that there was anything else that I could possibly do in this world except to try and be a working actor."

After Winkler graduated with an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama in 1970, one of his earliest roles was as the cool, leather-jacket-wearing Fonz on the classic sitcom Happy Days, which ran from 1974 until 1984.

The U.S. prison population is booming. It is estimated nearly 2.2 million people were incarcerated in America in 2016, and as many people in the U.S. have criminal records as have graduated from four-year colleges.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Congress in the Trump era is the subject of the new book by my guests Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer. It's called "The Hill To Die On: The Battle For Congress And The Future Of Trump's America." Sherman and Palmer are senior writers for Politico and co-write the twice-a-day newsletter Politico Playbook.

Climate change is often thought of as a partisan issue in the United States, but New York Times journalist Nathaniel Rich says that wasn't always the case.

Rich says that from 1979 until 1989, climate change was viewed as a bipartisan problem — then the the oil industry "descended and bared its fangs" and everything changed.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Ever since he was a little boy, Yannick Nézet-Séguin knew he wanted to be a conductor. He likens the feeling to something "almost like a religious call."

"Making music in the group is what animates me," he says.

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